As funny as tragicomedy Tall Dark and Handsome can be at times, Sam Baron’s film shows us just how destructive our insecurities can be if not taken control of early. It is a compelling short that has you wanting to give the fantastic Amit Shah’s Varun the firmest of shakes.
Varun (Amit Shah) and his girlfriend Ellie (Laura Aikman) are having a child together, but when Varun finds out that he is far from Ellie’s first Indian boyfriend, it becomes something he simply cannot let go.
Tall Dark and Handsome shows us the complexities of relationships between people from different cultural backgrounds and the idea of fetishism in partners. It also shows us our own insecurities as people. Ellie is comfortable with dating outside of her English culture and thrives on being with someone more open to possibilities. For Varun, he can’t comprehend that, and that is fully on him, even seeing how comfortable, possibly more comfortable, Ellie is with his culture than he is. His brain betrays him.
For the most part, the mood of Tall Dark and Handsome is light and comfortable; however, a turn happens, and from then onwards, the almost daft tension that Varun was bringing to the film disappears into something more tragic. Your stomach drops as you begin to realise that this might not be a film that will have the happy ending you want.
Sam Baron and Amit Shah’s script has some absolutely cracking lines, with one being, “I need to know that you love me for being me, not just because you love a bit of spice.” Fantastic bits of comedy can be uttered, and then, as quickly as you are laughing, your heart melts for the couple as they admit their fears and love for one another. From that moment, we can only assume the relationship is on an eventual doomed downward spiral.
Baron and Shah ensure that we are buckled in and helpless to watch Varun allow himself to crumble in self-doubt. Varun appears to be carrying a lot of baggage within himself, even admitting that he does not call his own mother ‘mumji’, hinting at issues he may have with his own culture. Instead of tackling his issues with himself, Varun allows those intrusive, slightly narcissistic thoughts to seep into his and Ellie’s worlds. By the time we get to the final scene, we fully see the damage he has done to all around him, and it truly is tragic.
Amit Shah is superb in Tall Dark and Handsome as the insecure Varun; at first, you think he is a character who is simply jealous of his partner’s exes due to their looks. Shah fills Varun with so much doubt that as much as you pity him, you cannot stop being angry at him. He is destroying something that never needs to be destroyed and is only going to go down a more damaging path unless someone grabs a firm grip on him.
Laura Aikman is equally as great here as Ellie, a woman just trying to get through that 3rd trimester with as few issues as possible, who has found someone she loves and is doing something wonderful with them, even if it was a bit of an accident. She is happy, so to see the strain grow gradually and the weight of Varun’s questioning pile on her is painful. Right before our eyes, her hope is getting washed away as the endless badgering goes on. So, by the time we get to that final scene, we are fully aware that much more went on in the interim, but her love for Varun never wavered, even if he did.
The tiniest of seeds were planted in Varun’s head, and we see them gradually and misguidedly blossom into something he cannot control. It shows us the endless struggles we have with the past of our partners and how if we are not fully capable of handling information, an implosion is never far behind. Tall Dark and Handsome takes you on an increasingly compelling and, for some, all too similar watch, a film that takes you by surprise.
The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.
For more information go to www.hollyshorts.com
Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:
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